alpharating 3.0

Alpha is an exceptionally middle-of-the-road film. Effort and craft was obviously put into it by many people and, yet, it barely registers in one way or another. At least it's more or less family fare and my child was interested to see after I explained the theoretical origins of the human/dog relationship (and, hence, their horrifying inbred devolution into modern day monstrosities).

The movie centers around Keda, a spindly, dewy-eyed teen living at the end of the last ice age. He is finally becoming a man and is taken on his first hunt, during the rare period in the year where the snows melt and animals gather. After trekking what seems like about 50 to 100 miles to hunt a relatively small number of what looks like bison or oxen, despite the fact that not living near a reasonable food source is idiotic and basically a death sentence for these people, the meager handful of hunter that they brought sneak up on the herd and stampede them off a cliff. They didn't bring enough people to bring back nearly any of the bovine massacre at the bottom of the cliff, but they mostly ignore that, as one of the angry animals decides to run down Keda, who pulls a Charlize Theron in Prometheus and tries to run away from the charging animal in a straight line, in the direction it was already going. (If this is what they're teaching, perhaps it's best if his tribe dies out.) The creature makes a second charge and him and, against all logic, decides it's going to kamikaze its way off of the cliff with Keda hung on its horn. He manages to get a handhold, but the cliff face is unnaturally smooth and sheer, like it had been created in a computer instead of erosion. He falls, bounces off a few ledges, and comes to rest a short way down the cliff. He doesn't awaken and, being unreachable and unresponsive, he's left for dead by the tribes, who assumedly take their meat and go home to await the fast-approaching winter.

After the vultures finally come to start on his body, he awakes to find himself in a precarious situation. He tries to climb down, only to get stuck, hanging by his hands with nowhere to go. Obviously, he would have lost his grip within minutes and fell to his death. Instead, he holds on for what seems like hours, until a torrential downpour and flash flood arrive. By the time he loses his grip, the canyon below is a raging river that carries him away and deposits him on a muddy bank.Alive, far from home, and with a broken ankle, foot, or some such part, he splints himself up with unnatural efficiency and starts heading for home, with no spears, no food, and only the knife on his belt.

He moves as quickly as he can, sleeping in trees to avoid animal attacks. We've already seen the wild life in early scenes: saber-toothed tigers, hyenas, and packs of wolves. Before the hunt, his father had explained the pack mentality of wolves, the fact that their leader is the "Alpha", whose leadership and strength of will allows him to control the pack. Apparently his father is very tied into horseshit 20th century theories about wolves not actually based in reality or science at all. It's also supposed to be an allegory for leadership of the tribe, but both are exceptionally poor and pseudoscientific. Nevertheless, the wolves catch up with his hobbling and he's forced to climb another tree. One wolf manages to grab his leg and he quickly stabs it before scrambling into the branches. The other wolves wait at the tree, check on their fallen pack member, and then leave.

The rest of what you're left with is the too-soft-hearted boy deciding to leave the wolf alive, then to take it with him to a nearby cave, where they both spend time healing as winter approaches. They develop a bond, because the movie is ultimately about the mythological bonding of men and wolves to create a symbiotic relationship. The wolf, who Keda lamely names Alpha, eventually comes to like and rely on the boy, they heal, they travel, they work together, and spend what feels like another several months to get back to Keda's village, somewhere a million miles away, where they can't hunt for meat apparently.

The allegories are weak, the premise is thin and unimpressive, the plot sometimes doesn't make sense (if you can tell me why the fuck that ice lake scene happens about two thirds of the way through the film, I'd really like to know), but it's not going to detract much from the boy-meets-dog nature of the film. It doesn't look bad, the acting is fine, the writing is sub-par, but the choice to do all the dialogue in a created language based on proto-languages of the region was a nice touch. More troublesome to have to read subtitles to a child every once in a while, but it made the movie feel a bit more "real" to not have modern English pouring out of some caveman's mouth.

It is undoubtedly not how relations between wolves and men commenced, but it's an easy, inoffensive watch.

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